Tuesday, May 20, 2008

OFWs grieve on Ka Bel’s untimely death

Press Release
May 20, 2008

Overseas Workers grieve on Ka Bel’s untimely death;
Migrante to give tribute for his great works of advancing and protecting workers’ rights

“Ka Bel’s untimely death is a surprised to all Filipino workers, local and overseas. But he has left us legacies that will remain alive in our and fellow worker’s hearts and mind” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said that OFWs and Families are grieving on the untimely death of one of the most respected Labor leaders of his time, Anakpawis Representative Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran. “We would like convey our condolences to his wife, family members and relatives,” he continued.

“Ka Bel is a genuine leader who himself came from the working class. His works and uncompromising stand defending workers rights and promotion of workers’ welfare is worthy of emulation by all Filipino workers, young and old, local and overseas, and even workers of other nationalities around the world,” Monterona added.

“I have been working with Ka Bel in a short time in Congress when he first became Anakpawis Representative and I treasure those days working with a genuine worker’s advocate and leader. I am deeply honored to be part of his legislative team as Consultant for Migrant Workers affairs though for a short time,’ Monterona tearfully recalled.

Migrante’s Monterona said that his group, fellow OFWs and families are very thankful with Ka Bel, who side-by-side working with Congressman Roseller Barinaga who then chairs the House Committee on Labor and Employment, consistently supported Overseas workers by filling several resolutions for the protection and welfare of Overseas Filipino workers and their families, in general; and has pushed for the creation of a special House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs.

“His untimely death is a loss to the working class and the workers movement. But his works and legacies lives on the working class who are ever willing to follow the same path he has chosen,” Monterona said.

Migrante chapters in the Middle East will be having a special gathering to give tribute and planning to sponsor a Mass in the homeland for Ka Bel.

“Migrante, OFWs and families is giving the highest tribute to Ka Bel elevating him to the status such of Gat Andres Bonificio, the great plebeian of his time,” Monterona ended.

# # #
John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

OFW Group welcomes family ministry

Press Release
May 20, 2008

OFW Group welcomes Church-led family ministry
for pastoral care and evangelical empowerment for OFWs and family

An alliance of Overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East today welcome the response made by the Catholic Church on the negative effects of migration such as the disintegration of migrant families, among others.

“We are more than happy to hear and welcome any church-led and inspired social mechanisms to foster pastoral care and evangelical empowerment for OFWs and their families with the end in view of curbing the breaking-up of migrant families,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

On his pastoral response on the issue of the break-up of migrant families and itinerant peoples posted on his Web log, Cotabato Archbishop and Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) secretary general Orlando Quevedo recommended to the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers the setting up of family ministry in every local church that “cares and serves”, “forms and empowers”, a family ministry that build and works for solidarity among members of migrant families and among migrant families.

“We are thankful to Bishop Quevedo, who in his capacity us our beloved Bishop and as a concerned citizen like us, has outlined his response to the issue of OFW family disintegration and realizing the social costs due to forced migration of our workers whose only option is to left their family to find work and earn a living who later will end up leaving his own family for indefinite time, worst many ended to breaking-up,” Monterona added.

Monterona said that OFWs could perform its evangelical task as believers while in foreign land especially in countries where exercise of religious freedom is permitted.

“OFWs could perfectly act as disciples of Jesus Christ and act not only as preachers but also liberators of the oppressed migrant workers who usually are victims of employer’s maltreatment, unfair labor practices, unpaid on their own hard labor, sexually harassed and exploited,” Monterona added.

Monterona said that based on Migrante ME un-published initial study on OFW families conducted on 2006, 5 out of 10 OFW families ended up breaking who have been separated from one another for quite a long time. “Thus, it is fare to conclude that forced migration is considered an evil force that is breaking Filipino families or the value of close family ties among OFW families,” he added.

Monterona further said that the Arroyo administration that is impulsive on intensifying cheap export of Filipino workers relying solely on the huge in-flows of OFW remittances keeping the long in crisis economy is to be held accountable for OFW families’ disintegration and OFWs deplorable conditions abroad that failed to develop mechanisms that will ensure protection of OFWs rights and welfare.

Monterona cited the January 2008 IBON survey that showed 7 out of 10 seeing themselves as poor will be forced to look for a job abroad even though they are aware of the costs, social and financial, in leaving their families behind.

“The increasing employment rate reaching to 7.4% in January 2008 and growing numbers of jobless with almost 200 workers losing their jobs daily , the increasing cost of living that for a family with six members needs to earn Php.780 daily while many of the workers are only receiving a minimum wage of Php.350 a day , the growing numbers of urban poor and squatters living in the cities are indicators of the Arroyo administration’ s failure to improve the economy that could generate local jobs with decent wage and non-wage benefits,” Monterona explained.

Monterona pointed out that only a developed agrarian-based economy and nationalized basic industries could transform our slumped economy into real developing one capable of ensuring food security and creating decent jobs that will hold back our workers to finding work abroad but instead be employed locally with a decent job.

Migrante is urging the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to look deeply into the real cause of forced migration.“Massive poverty due to worsening Philippine economy aggravated by the Arroyo administration is the root cause of forced migration. Our Bishops must squarely confront the Arroyo administration on its numerous ‘sins’ committed against the ‘church’ or faithful but oppressed believers including OFWs and their families,” Monterona ended.

# # #
John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Friday, May 16, 2008

Malacanang should report

Press Release
May 16, 2008

Malacanang should report status of efforts to save OFWs on Death Row – Migrante ME

An alliance of Overseas Filipino Workers’ organizations based in the Middle East today said the Arroyo administration should report updates of its efforts to saving the lives of OFWs on death row.

“In pursuit of transparency, the Arroyo administration should reveal to the public the status of its efforts, if there are any, in saving the lives of OFWs on death row especially those in Kuwait whose verdict has been affirmed by the host government’s High Court such as the case of OFWs May Vecina and Jakatia Pawa,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

“The efforts undertaken, if there are any, by Arroyo administration in saving the lives of OFWs on death row is public interest. Thus, the public, especially OFWs, has the right to know if its government is doing and exerting the needed efforts to save their lives,” Monterona added.

On May 13, 2008, local media reported that Kuwait Court of First Instance handed down the death verdict of another OFW Bienvenido Espino Jr. for stabbing his alleged erstwhile girlfriend Jhias Gumapac to death on Oct 30 near a bakery in Salmiya , Kuwait thus adding him to an estimated 26 OFWs on death row in the entire Middle East .

Based on 2006 foreign media reports, Kuwait has executed a total estimate of 71 people, three of them women, since its first use of the death penalty some four decades ago. Most have been convicted murderers or drug traffickers.

On its web site, the World Coalition Against Death Penalty, which is spearheading a global campaign against death penalty, reported that in Saudi Arabia there are like 150 plus were beheaded last year and 78 of them are foreigners.

Migrante’s Monterona said that in Kuwait alone, there are now three (3) fellow OFWs on death row: OFWs Espino Jr. and Pawa whose conviction by Kuwait lower Court is under review by its High Court, while OFW Vecina’s conviction has already been affirmed with finality by Kuwait High Court early April 2008.

The Emir of Kuwait has two months to sign and act on the court's decision. Within this period, the Philippine government can exert diplomatic means and personal appeals for compassion to spare Vecina from death.
“Migrante has spearheaded a signature campaign and petition letter last month to save OFW Vecina in co-ordination with Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), a Hong Kong based migrant non-government organization and have gathered 70 organizations and 40 migrant leaders from 20 countries and territories, and 3 regional organizations’ alliances. The petition letter has been sent by fax to Kuwait ’s Emir on May 9, 2008,” Monterona said.

“We are closely keeping an eye on OFW Vecina’s case and other OFWs whose conviction are already final and executory; we will tightly observe the actions to be undertaken by the Arroyo administration especially that Mrs. Arroyo herself had promised last year to intervene on OFW Vecina’s case and other 25 OFWs in death row. We sill see if Mrs. Arroyo now will be true to her words as she is perceived to break her own promises.” Monterona added.

“Fellow OFWs and families have enough reasons to be vigilant and alarmed on the Arroyo administration’ s handling on the cases of OFWs in death row as they have already witnessed, not only once but several times, the hanging of fellow OFWs such as of Flor Contemplacion in Singapore and Reynaldo Cortez in Saudi Arabia, among the many whose death have not been publicized especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries in the Middle East.

The OFW leader ended saying that Migrante, OFWs and families would not want to see a repeat of Flor Contemplacion and Reynaldo Cortez in the coming months; thus, OFWs’ vigilance and concerted actions to compel the remiss Arroyo administration to do its job conscientiously and earnestly is deemed necessary to save the life of OFW Vecina and other OFWs who are in death row. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GMA asked to ensure OFWs safety in Lebanon

Press Release
May 14, 2008

Despite deployment ban
OFWs still sent to chaotic Lebanon ;
Arroyo govt. urge to take measure to ensure OFWs safety

An alliance of Overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East today lambasted the Arroyo administration and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which are sleeping in its monitoring against recruitment agencies that keep on sending OFWs to Lebanon despite deployment ban imposed by the government.

An officer of Filipino-Lebanese Friendship Association based in Lebanon the other day has confirmed that around 5,000 Filipino households have entered in Lebanon since the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006 has ended.

“It has been reported that violence has been escalating in Lebanon due to infighting of two warring Muslim factions, the Shiite and Sunni groups, and based on our monitoring from local media it will escalate in the coming days; such hostilities in Lebanon certainly put the lives of fellow OFWs in Lebanon at great risks,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

International media reported an estimated 50 people have already been killed due to heavy fighting between US-backed Lebanon government army and militia Hezbollah group which the former opted a policy of disarming the latter.

There are an estimated 25,000 OFWs now working in Lebanon mostly as domestic helpers.

“Like in Iraq , despite deployment ban imposed by the Arroyo administration, we are wondering why there are still a considerable numbers of OFWs that have been sent to work as domestic helpers in Lebanon where a civil war is now escalating,” Monterona queried.

Monterona further said that during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict most Lebanese employers have just left their domestic helpers and were even locked inside their employer’s houses.

“That time Lebanese are swiftly fleeing and securing only themselves and members of their families leaving behind our fellow OFWs at their employer’s houses, thus putting OFWs lives at great risks at time when heavy bombs are pouring like rain,” Monterona continued.

Issuance of advisory from the Philippine government to OFWs in Lebanon to keep off the streets and just follow their employer’s instruction is not enough; a pro-active plan must now be crafted having in mind the safety and security of our fellow OFWs in Lebanon .

“The Middle East Preparedness Team which has been headed by Gen. Roy Cimatu should immediately assess the worsening situation in Lebanon and from its assessment, if required, develop a plan for the immediate evacuation of the more or less 100 stranded and ran away OFWs in Philippine Embassy’s resource center.

Monterona said that Philippine officials in Lebanon should made themselves and their office available and try to get in touch with our fellow OFWs by having available telephone hotlines in time where fellow OFWs need assistance for their safety and security.

However, the migrant leader reminded the Arroyo administration that the cost for evacuation of OFWs in Lebanon should not be made a justification to charging it from Php.10-B OWWA fund held in trust in the government.

Monterona recalled the released of US$293,500 for the Middle East Preparedness Team during the US war of aggression in Iraq presumably for the immediate repatriation of OFWs but in fact no repatriation took placed, and the said amount has not been properly audited.

Migrante ME is urging the POEA to intensify its monitoring drive against recruitment agencies that are continuously sending OFWs in Lebanon and Iraq , where there is heavy internal conflict.

“The Arroyo administration and POEA should seriously prosecute recruitment agencies violating the deployment ban in Lebanon and Iraq to ensure that our fellow OFWs and aspiring alike will not be sent to war-torn Iraq and Lebanon .” Monterona added.

“We reiterate our call to POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz to seriously investigate and prosecute its officials as well who are found to be conniving with recruitment agencies that are still sending OFWs in Lebanon and Iraq despite the government imposed deployment ban as we have heard “pera pera lang iyan” (money is all that needed) to acquire an Overseas employment Certificate (OEC) from POEA,” Monterona ended. # # #

John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Sunday, May 11, 2008

As Saudi Govt. implements ‘finger-printing’ on all expatriates

Press Release
May 11, 2008

As Saudi Govt. implements ‘finger-printing’ on all expatriates
Migrante urges RP Officials to extend special assistance to undocumented, over-staying, and ran away OFWs

An alliance of overseas Filipino Workers’ organization in the Middle East today said that the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General should be prepared and ready its office to extend assistance to undocumented OFWs as the Saudi government had decided to implement mandatory finger-printing on all expatriate workers starting yesterday, May 10, 2008.

“Local media reported that the Saudi government through its Director General of the Passport Department, strengthening its internal security measures just like other governments in the Middle East, has opted to implement finger-printing on all migrant workers effective May 10, 2008; such will put the lives and jobs of undocumented and over-staying OFWs at big risk,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said that finger-printing requirement in the issuance of residence permit called Iqama in Saudi is not new as several Middle Eastern governments have already put in placed similar requirement such as Qatar that has its Pataqa, only to be issued to a migrant worker after “finger-printing” has been done; while the UAE government has its eye-scan mandatory requirement.

“We have been receiving reports from our members and OFW friends that in fact some big companies in Saudi Arabia that employed large numbers of migrant workers has already introduced “finger-printing” on all its employees last year,” said Mario Ben, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante Riyadh chapter) Chairperson.

The migrant leader said that any government has the inherent right to protect its own nationals and maintain public order but he stressed that it should not be at the expense of migrant workers rights’ violations.

“We are much concerned on our fellow OFWs who have been over staying, undocumented, and ran away from their employer as the finger-printing requirement will be implemented in the entire Kingdom; the Saudi government may soon require all companies to facilitate the finger-printing of their respective expatriate workers, not only those who are newly arrived,” Mario Ben added.

Andrew M. Ociones, Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter Chairperson said that Saudi Immigration Police is continuously undertaking selective raids on the alleged houses and shelter of undocumented and ran away migrant workers including OFWs in Jeddah and Riyadh .

Migrante members in Jeddah reported that last April 19, the Immigration Police raided three (3) adjacent buildings where several Indonesians and Bangladeshi along with their children and other migrant workers numbering to 100 have been arrested and were taken inside the 2 buses going to the detention center.

“With the implementation of “finger-printing” in Saudi Arabia, we are worried that all ran away and stranded will now be classified and treated as ordinary criminals as such it is leading to “criminalization” status of undocumented, ran away and stranded at deportation centers and resource centers in the entire Kingdom,” Ociones added.

In lieu of the implementation of ‘finger-printing’ requirement in Saudi Arabia , Migrante is urging the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah to prepare a pro-active action plan.

“The conduct of diplomatic talks to explore the possibility of granting amnesty to some undocumented, and those who are employed to other company but not under its sponsorship, and those who are ran away and distress OFWs seeking refuge and temporarily staying on their relatives and friends; to facilitate the immediate repatriation of the less than 200 stranded OFWs in Riyadh and remaining more than 100 OFWs in Jeddah deportation center are among of the actions our officials could undertake,” Monterona added.

“Our Officials abroad should not wait time to come where a distress and ran away OFW has been charged, detained and be treated like an ordinary criminal whose only option is to leave his or her abusive and errant employer,” Monterona ended. # # #

Andrew M. Ociones, Chairperson
Migrante-Saudi Arabia
Mobile No.: 00966 508 94 4426

Mario Ben, Chairperson
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante) Riyadh Chapter
Mobile No.: 00966 565 74 5214

John Leonard Monterona
regional coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012